I've decided to make public my finances and how I look at them, having found no reason not to. For information about why, read a blog post about it.
- I use a debit card for most things, because it includes automatic logging. Even prepaid gift cards give you access to their logs these days, which I think is great.
- My bank then provides access to my history through their online portal. I rarely look at this directly except to see scanned checks. Instead, I hooked up Mint.com, which integrates with most banks, and can give a combined report in a common format. As a warning, I've some hearsay about inaccurate data from them.
- My transaction history (~500K csv file) since 2010 is regularly exported from Mint.com by a modified ruby script someone wrote for this purpose. This gives me an up-to-date record of everything purchased with my debit card. In theory I'm storing old copies of this file in case Mint changes something instead of just appending entries.
- I mostly look through the file by hand, although I have some tree mapping software to visualize categories over a particular time spans which I use on occasion. I'll post it if someone bugs me.
I really wish grocery stores would itemize reciepts back to the bank or at least a QR code, but no luck on that problem yet. I also need to cross-reference some line items with email invoices, paypal, amazon, and others in order to figure out what they even are. I store what I look up by narrowly categorizing line-items.